Customer Experience and Design

Ask the Expert: How to Connect with Patients and Members using Social & Mobile Tools

Michael Porter is a Principal at Perficient for Portal, Social, and Collaboration solutions. He leverages 13 years of experience with portal and content management projects to help clients understand and take advantage of the value provided by web technologies. He has supported many multi-million dollar portal implementations for some of the world’s largest companies. Michael supports Perficient’s sales and marketing organizations through the creation of industry-leading services that help clients understand their enterprise portal and has helped to position Perficient as one of the top providers of strategic portal solutions. He regularly speaks at industry and partner events on portal and social topics.
Check out his blog at:
Follow Mike on Twitter @PorterOnPortal

What are the best ways that healthcare organizations can use portal technology to engage with patients and members?

When you talk about patients or members, you need to talk about what they want. If you are creating a mobile site for a member, then the chances are the member won’t need that mobile site to check on their insurance claims from their mobile phone. It’s more likely that they forgot to bring their insurance card to an appointment and need to access their insurance card information from their mobile phone. Organizations need to think “what does the patient or member want?” There’s a clear User Experience component that comes through.

Portals are primarily an aggregation tool. For patients, they need to make an appointment, they need to find a doctor, they need to find information on their health condition. The portal can go in, take that data, and surface it up to the patient or member in a way that is useful to them. For example, many think that patients pick a doctor for a procedure based on their academic credentials. However, doing user experience surveys we found that they want to pick a doctor for a specific procedure based on how often that doctor performs that procedure. That information can be presented to the patient in a helpful way to provide them with the information they need to take control of their healthcare.

Portals are also a great way to personalize an experience for a member or patient. For example, if you know that a person is diabetic, then why would you have them log in and offer them information about the pregnancy center, which might not be relevant to them? If a patient has prostate cancer, then you ought to be targeting that content to them to help them on their path towards wellness. This says, “I understand who you are, I understand your needs, let me give you the information that will help you feel better.” Patients and members may feel out of their element when managing their illness, and we can help put them at east through personalization with portal.

What recommendations do you have for healthcare organizations that want to make their portal mobile friendly?

Mobile is important to clinicians and patients. We recently had a doctor tell us “I go patient to patient to patient all day. If you can’t put it on my iPhone, then it isn’t important to me.”

Unfortunately, the current mobile world is like the Wild Wild West. There are lots of people, lots of ideas, and lots of technologies. This provides a lot of options to create a mobile experience. With that in mind, I have several recommendations.

First you need to understand your options and correlate that with the skills, tools, and goals you have to meet. The organization needs to define what they are going to do, when you are going to use the portal, and how it is going to be used. Once you understand that, then you can begin to formulate a strategy. Specifically, you should be looking at native applications like iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. Then look at whether you want to enable web based applications. Finally, look at the tools to manage the sites and cut down on creating multiple code streams for what is essentially the same thing but on different platforms.

From a tactical standpoint, there are iPhone applications as well as various smart phones that can all create apps. These apps are very convenient, but where do you start with so many forms of mobile media? One option is to make a web application and use write once publish everywhere tool to put your application on multiple channels. Ultimately, with so many options healthcare organizations need to dip their foot in the water first. Don’t just dive into trying to do everything at once. Do your first application and see if it is successful. Use what you learn and create a plan based on what works for you and what your users demand.

What are the social media capabilities available today with portals?

To me there is a difference between social media and social networking/collaboration. With social media you use tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Radian 6 to create one to many relationships. Healthcare organizations are essentially building a brand to any consumer that may be interested. You can’t control the conversation but you can be a part of it.

Social networking or collaboration, on the other hand, is much more inwardly focused. Groups of people are brought together to share information, form communities, and learn from one another. Online patient communities are perfect examples of this. Healthcare organizations can build these communities internal to their organization as well. Social networking capabilities have fantastic profiling opportunities. Need an epidemiology specialist pronto? There are tools that can help you find that knowledge within your organization. There is a ton of content that is constantly being released and clinicians need to stay up on new policies, new research, and what their colleagues are doing. Social networking tools integrated with third party sources can pull all this together. Colleagues can be pulled together in communities around targeted content to form centers of excellence within the organization.

What are the leaders in healthcare portal up to these days?

The leaders in portal are being really smart. They are not just saying I am going to provide you with access to claims or provide you with links. They are saying, “I know you are a patient, and you are coming here for a purpose.” They personalize that experience. This makes the site harder to manage because it is not a static site. You have to set up the infrastructure to make that work, but there is a lot of payback. The leaders are giving better value to their constituents while gaining the economies of scale that portal and social technologies can give you.

Have any other portal questions for Mike? Please enter them below.

About the Author

More from this Author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Blog Digest:

Sign Up